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Rationalization is a process whereby thought and action rooted in emotion; superstition and respect for mysterious forces, and tradition are replaced by value- rational thought and action. Value-rational thought and action involve striving to find the most efficient way to achieve a valued goal or result. In the context of industrialization, "the most efficient way" means the fastest and most cost-effective way to achieve a profit.

One important example of rationalization is the profit- making strategy known as planned obsolescence, which involves producing goods that are disposable after a single use, have a shorter life cycle than the industry is capable of producing, or go out of style quickly even though the goods can still serve their purpose.

Sociologist Max Weber used the term rationalization to refer to the way in which daily life is organized socially to accommodate large numbers of people, and not necessarily to accommodate the way that individuals actually think.

For example on an individual level, people may be aware that they do not "need" an automobile before the one they drive wears out, but they may find the urge to buy a new car irresistible. Likewise, people may know that as the automobile burns fuel it emits greenhouse gases and other pollutants; they may know they should carpool, walk, or drive a more fuel-efficient car. Still, they may find the efficiency and convenience the automobile offers irresistible.

As Weber argued, once people identify a valued goal and decide on the means (actions) to achieve it, they seldom consider less profitable or slower ways to reach the goal.